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D.23 (COPY?) Bishop Saint Resuscitating a Youth

D.23 (COPY) Bishop Saint Resuscitating a Youth

1527

Paris, Louvre, RF 562.

Fig.D.23a
Fig.D.23b bw

Pen and ink, point of brush and wash, heightened with white, over black chalk, 30.9 x 25.7; arched; the sheet is torn its full length just right of center and is patched with a strip in the area of the outlined altar and retable; a triangular section missing from the upper right is added, and a part of the façade in the background is drawn-in here in pencil; the drawing is very much rubbed especially in the figures at the far left and right; there are signs that it was once fully heightened with white brush strokes and cross-hatching which have now very much disappeared; laid down; wm.?  Inscribed in ink at the bottom: Domenico Florentino, and on the back of the mount: Ecole florentine, Domenico florentino.

PROVENANCE: His de la Salle Collection (Lugt 1332 or 1333).

LITERATURE:

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 153-158, 162, 167, II, Bk. II, 250-257, D.21, Bk. III, Fig. 75, as a copy of a lost drawing by Rosso of the latter half of 1527.

The association of this drawing with Rosso is first suggested by the appearance, in the lower left corner, of the same nude child holding a dog that appears, in reverse, in the lower right corner of a copy of a lost study (Fig.D.28) for the Christ in Glory in Città di Castello, and also in a second copy of a study for this picture (Fig.D.29) where, however, only the child is clearly visible.  The exact repetition of such a detail is found elsewhere in Rosso’s art1 and need not indicate that the composition of this Louvre drawing is by another artist who has borrowed this particular group from Rosso.  More broadly the drawing resembles Rosso’s three scenes of the life of St. Roch (Fig.D.13; Fig.D.14B; Fig.D.15a) in the use of normally proportioned figures placed in an ample space closed in the distance by architecture.  In these respects the drawing also resembles Rosso’s Battle of the Romans and the Sabines engraved by Caraglio (Fig.E.48, Paris).  In it and in the St. Roch Distributing His Inheritance to the Poor (Fig.D.13) there is a perspective view of a street in the background, and in the miracle scene there is a needle-like pyramid similar to those in the Romans and Sabines print and in Rosso’s Allegory of the Virgin of 1529 (Fig.D.33Aa).  The architectural details of the façade in the background of the drawing are very similar to those in the St. Roch Visiting the Plague-Stricken (Fig.D.14B) and in the Romans and Sabines composition.

Although the Louvre drawing is very similar to the St. Roch scenes it is equally, if somewhat differently, related to Rosso’s Pietà in Borgo Sansepolcro (Fig.P.19a) where, as in the drawing, the figures are densely and symmetrically grouped around a figure placed in the center of the scene.  In both the figures are also similarly posed with their bodies bent in the direction of the central figure.  The bald bearded man just to the left of the reclining youth in the drawing is comparable to the youth at the head of Christ in the Pietà.  The bishop in the drawing occupies a position compositionally related to that of the standing old man at the right in Rosso’s painting.  At the head of the stretcher in the drawing the figures peer into the scene like those around the Virgin in the painting.

So far as other details are concerned, the bald man looks quite like the figure at the foot of Christ in the Pietà.  The old woman at the left closely resembles the old female saint to the right of Christ in the Christ in Glory (Fig.P.20a) and the turbaned figure at the lower left of the Madonna della Misericordia drawing of 1529 (Fig.D.35a). These details, along with the group of the child with a dog, seen together with the larger stylistic features of the drawing, strongly support Rosso’s authorship of this composition.

However, the draughtsmanship of the drawing does not have precisely the character of any drawing by Rosso that is surely autograph.  In many places, as in the figures standing in the doorway in the background that may have been gone over by the restorer, who added the missing architecture, the handling of the drawing seems too uncertain for Rosso. But the poor condition of the drawing makes such a comment itself uncertain. It is possible that the drawing is done in the same technique as Rosso’s Throne of Solomon of 1529 (Fig.D.34), executed in pen and ink and wash applied broadly and with the point of the brush.  The extensive use of white highlights still evident in the badly rubbed Louvre drawing suggests its use in the central image of Rosso’s Design for a Chapel of 1528-1529 (Fig.D.37a).  The usual sharpness of Rosso’s line is here thickened by many contour lines and details drawn with the point of the brush instead of a pen.

Although the Louvre drawing has much in common with the St. Roch scenes executed in Rome, the complexity of the compositions of those scenes is not like the simpler composition of the Bishop Saint Resuscitating a Youth.  But neither does its compositional relationships of forms and space appear exactly like those in Rosso’s dense and highly elaborated but also comparatively quite spaceless Pietà in Borgo Sansepolcro of 1527-28, in spite of the many similarities of these two works.  What the Louvre drawing most resembles is the Adoration of the Magi that Rosso designed for Domenico Alfani in Perugia shortly after the Sack of Rome and that is transcribed, in reverse, in a print by Cherubino Alberti (Fig.E.1). Both of these compositions are, for Rosso, surprisingly uncomplicated.  The figures are quite normally proportioned, and their postures are quite natural.  The space of each scene is ample, and the figures are simply grouped within it around the central characters.  In each picture a diagonal path of space extends from the left foreground to the right background.  Furthermore, details of physiognomy and costume in the Louvre drawing are more related to those in the Adoration of the Magi than to those in any other work by Rosso.  It is, therefore, probable that the original of the Louvre drawing was done about the same time as the Adoration, in the second half of 1527, soon after Rosso’s flight from Rome and before he executed the Pietà in Borgo Sansepolcro.

The appearance of the outlines of an altar in the drawing indicates that the composition was planned as a wall painting, and for a particular place.  That is was never executed by Rosso seems most likely as Vasari, who was well-informed on Rosso’s life and who had met Rosso not long after he left Perugia, makes no reference to it.  It is quite possible that this composition was made by Rosso for another artist, perhaps again for Alfani.

It has not been possible to discover the subject of the drawing, which involves a king, who could be the father of the youth on the stretcher, and a bishop saint. The scene could be about a saint particular to Perugia or some nearby town, or if done after Rosso’s departure from Perugia, about a saint having special significance in or around Borgo Sansepolcro.  But as Rosso may have been briefly in Florence late in 1527, and in Arezzo as well, the drawing could also have a subject relevant to these places.

If the drawing is a copy, it is an expert one of a rather unusual and at the same time ordinary composition for Rosso. With Rosso’s frequent helpfulness to young artists, he may perhaps have made the drawing for an artist who wanted just this sort of narrative scene for an audience in one of the small towns in which Rosso worked following his flight from Rome in 1527. The identification of the draughtsman as Domenico Fiorentino (Domenico del Barbiere), as the inscription indicates, or as Alessandro del Barbiere (Alessandro Fei di Vincenzio), under whose name the drawing is kept at the Louvre, has not been proved and may be likely only if done in France. The draughtsman does not seem to have been the less capable draughtsman who executed the copies of Rosso’s St. Roch drawings.2 However, I would not altogether dismiss the possibility that it is a much damaged original drawing uninspired or unusual in its execution.


1 See the very close similarity of three figures in Rosso’s Throne of Solomon (Fig.D.34) and Madonna della Misericordia (Fig.D.35a) drawings of 1529; the nude old man in these drawings is only a slight variant of a figure in Rosso’s Disputation of the Angel of Death and the Devil drawing of 1517 (Fig.D.1a).  The woman and child in the lower left corner of the Christ in Glory (Fig.P.20a) are borrowed from the Sabines composition engraved in Rome (Fig.E.48, Paris).  The little nude figure with his arms crossed over his chest in the upper left corner of Rosso’s St. Roch Distributing His Inheritance to the Poor (Fig.D.13) can also be found, in reverse, in the upper part of Rosso’s Challenge of the Pierides, engraved by Caraglio (Fig.E.25a).

2 Rosaline Bacou informed me that Jacob Bean had recognized the similarity of these drawings to the Bishop Saint Resuscitating a Youth.